Ja­maica could lose 90% in aid un­der pro­posed US bud­get cuts

Stabroek News - - REGIONAL NEWS -

(Ja­maica Ob­server) New York, USA — An in­flu­en­tial mem­ber of the US Congress, Con­gress­man Eliot En­gel, said here Satur­day that Ja­maica and the rest of the Caribbean could see a 28 per cent de­cline in as­sis­tance un­der the US Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) pro­gramme, if what he de­scribes as a “dra­co­nian and short-sighted 33 per cent cut” in his coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional af­fairs bud­get, as pro­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, is im­ple­mented.

In the spe­cific case of Ja­maica, En­gel, the rank­ing mem­ber of the US house For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said as­sis­tance to the county “would be cut by 90 per cent”, re­sult­ing in the loss of mil­lions of dol­lars.

USAID has funded projects in agri­cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, re­new­able en­ergy, cli­mate change, and other ar­eas in Ja­maica since 1962.

The con­gress­man made the dis­clo­sure shortly af­ter ac­cept­ing the Fam­ily Uni­fi­ca­tion and Re­set­tle­ment Ini­tia­tive (FURI) Pin­na­cle Award at the group’s 15th Fundrais­ing and Awards Ban­quet in the Bronx.

The Ja­maican group has been at the fore­front of ini­tia­tives aimed at pro­vid­ing a smooth tran­si­tion and rein­te­gra­tion of de­ported Ja­maicans.

Con­sid­ered strong voice for the in­ter­ests of Ja­maica and the rest of the Caribbean in Congress, En­gel said that aid to Haiti, the poor­est coun­try in the re­gion, would be re­duced by 17 per cent, while as­sis­tance to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic would drop by half and Bar­ba­dos and the Eastern Caribbean would suf­fer a 41 per cent cut.

“Fund­ing for the Caribbean Basin Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive would also drop by 37 per cent to $36.2 mil­lion,” En­gel said.

He later an­nounced that fol­low­ing a bi­par­ti­san in­ter­ven­tion through a let­ter from rep­re­sen­ta­tives Yvette D Clarke, Ros Le­hti­nen, and him­self, fund­ing for the Caribbean Basin Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive in 2018,”will be at same level of $57.7 mil­lion as this year”.

The con­gress­man ar­gued that the cuts “would be dev­as­tat­ing”, but he did of­fer some hope, how­ever, not­ing that “the good news is that Congress — not the pres­i­dent — has the power of the purse”.

En­gel, who au­thored the US/Caribbean Strate­gic En­gage­ment Act, which was signed into law by Pres­i­dent Obama in De­cem­ber last year, said he is keen to work with Ja­maica and the rest of the Caribbean Di­as­pora in en­hanc­ing the strate­gic re­la­tions be­tween the US and the re­gion.

The con­gress­man also in­vited FURI to open di­a­logue with his of­fice to see what specif­i­cally the US gov­ern­ment can do — such as job train­ing — to en­able de­ported Ja­maicans and other Caribbean na­tion­als to meet their full po­ten­tial.

Eliot En­gel

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